Girl killed, families injured in Balikatan clearing operations
02/21/2009 | 08:58 PM
MANILA, Philippines – A one-year-old girl died on Feb. 19 from wounds she suffered when a grenade fired from a launcher by Army troops hit her family's house in Barangay Balanac in Ligao City, Albay.
The incident, which reportedly happened during "clearing operations," was relayed to GMANews.TV by John Concepcion, spokesman of rights group Karapatan-Bikol, which condemned the incident.
Concepcion identified the victim as Rafaela Polborido, 1 year and 4 months old and said the grenade launchers were fired by troops from the 901st Infantry Brigade, which is based in Daraga, Albay.
"Not only was Rafaela killed but her whole family and others were injured as well," Concepcion said.
He identified the wounded members of the Polborido family as Jocelyn, 30; Eufemia, 28; Ina, 5; Daisy, 4; and Julius, 2.
Also injured were members of the Dalima family – Rose, 31; Roderick, 5; Mary Rose, 10 months.
Two other casualties were only identified as Andrea, 4, and Emerson, 9.
"We are now assisting the families in whatever action they may take to hold the soldiers accountable," Concepcion said.
The Bikolano Alliance for Nationalism against Balikatan (BAN Balikatan) joined Karapatan-Bikol in condemning the incident.
In a statement issued on Saturday, Prof. Jocelyn Bisuña, spokesman of BAN Balikatan, said: "This is unforgivable. A child is now gone because the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is targeting Filipino citizens just to please their US foreign master. This is part of the continuing harassment and the violation of Bicolanos’ rights by the military. Recently they also harassed drivers and people in Guinobatan and Jovellar in the same province threatening them against joining the anti-Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) caravan."
Concepcion said the two groups were worried that more such incidents could happen if the Balikatan exercises were to continue.
"This is the military’s way to intimidate the Bicolano people into agreeing to the Balikatan exercises," Bisuña added. "But we will not be cowed. The anti-VFA caravan will continue and we will further intensify our struggle against foreign intervention and to junk the VFA and Balikatan." - D'Jay Lazaro, GMANews.TV